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Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

I’m very happy to see this: Ophelia and Richard had a meeting of the minds and made a statement deploring the behavior of some atheists.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

Here’s Richard’s very important addition:

I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

Now that is a step forward.

Comments

  1. Louis says

    What I said at Ophelia’s:

    “Whatever else I and others may disagree with Prof Dawkins about, I’m bloody glad he’s come out explicitly against harassment etc.

    Okay so it’s a bare minimum, but I’ll take it as a first (tiny) step in the right direction.”

    I’m cautiously optimistic.

    I’ll add that “vulgar epithets” are a pretty hard thing to avoid though. I mean, how else is a fuckwit going to know they’re a fuckwit unless you tell them?

    ;-)

    Louis

  2. thewhollynone says

    It just seems to me that fuckwits are acting like fuckwits and proving that they themselves are fuckwits when they call other people “fuckwits” and tell them to “get outta here.” Of course, I realize that I am an old lady who speaks a different civil language from what passes today as civil discourse among younger people, and I realize that perhaps I must change with the times or be considered an irrelevant fuckwit. Nevertheless, it does seem to me that using vulgar epithets is still a sure sign that one is losing the thread of the argument.

    So how does one treat a true fuckwit? Ignore…ignore…ignore….

    That said, having been ignored, I will now go away.

  3. says

    I’m glad they were able to come together and make this statement. I’m even happier that Dawkins, given his popularity, has made this statement.

    Like Louis though, I don’t agree with the inclusion of ‘vulgar epithets’.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    We can’t mock people’s haircuts? I think that’s going a bit too far.

  5. Pan Paniscus says

    Kudos to both Ophelia and Richard for this, it is very welcome. It is of course — quite rightly — a condemnation of “threats or harassment”. I wonder, though, what the Horde think of the suggestion that “managing disagreement ethically” precludes “vulgar epithets”?

  6. Louis says

    Thewhollynone,

    I realise it is a terrible thing that we young people do, but the ;-) after my comment about fuckwits was there to indicate humour. I could let you know all about self-deprecating humour but a) I’m not very good at it*, and b) I really don’t want to bother with an interminable argument about precisely how rudeness, incivility, even vulgarity are tangential to whether or not one is “winning” an argument or following its thread. I’ll leave you to your antiquated prejudices in peace.

    Louis

    * Deary me, please tell me I don’t have to explain THAT joke too.

  7. says

    thewhollynone:

    Nevertheless, it does seem to me that using vulgar epithets is still a sure sign that one is losing the thread of the argument.

    See, I don’t understand this. How does the use of vulgarity mean one is losing the thread? What about the rest of an argument that often accompanies vulgarity?
    If I make a long comment about why I support same sex marriage and my reasoning behind it, but I include vulgarity, does the vulgarity negate my comment?
    I’ve made extensive comments in support of a woman’s right to choose. In the many comments I’ve made, I’ve included vulgarity. Does the vulgarity negate my argument? Or does my argument still stand?

    That’s my problem with the opposition to vulgarity. So many people point at the FUCK or the SHIT, and completely ignore the rest of the comment. The argument does not disappear bc someone uses words you don’t like.

    Also, words like FUCK and SHIT, while vulgar, are not the same as bigoted slurs. The latter punches down. It hits oppressed and marginalized people. Bigoted slurs use the oppressed as a way of insulting others. That’s why I choose not to use them, and why I advocate for their non use. But words like FUCK and SHIT are not of the same nature. All coarse, harsh, swear, curse words are not alike.

  8. Louis says

    Why oh why do I see yet another endless rehash of the “pissing on carpets” wrangle forthcoming? WHY!? WHYYY!? I need a link farm, the Index to Creationist Claims of pointless internet wrangles I can simply quote a reference to.

    “Whining about Norty Werdz and how they prove you are losing™”, that’ll be Section 3.2, sub section B, paragraphs 1 through Graham’s number.

    Louis

  9. Al Dente says

    thewhollynone @2

    Of course, I realize that I am an old lady who speaks a different civil language from what passes today as civil discourse among younger people

    I’m 66 and I will call a fuckwit a fuckwit if they’re being a fuckwit.

  10. says

    Maybe by “vulgar epithets” slurs are meant.

    Anyway, this is what I said at B&W:

    “I don’t see any tackling here [a reference to a previous comment by Katherine Woo: “Dawkins is actually tackling issues of harassment and you [Abbeycadabra] are still fuming about [Dear Muslima]”]. After all the crap he himself has dumped on people, a statement that he’s actually against harassment seems rather weak (however welcome it may be). I want to see him walking the walk. No more twitter slamming feminists. No more using his pulpit to boost the signal of misogynists and racists. An apology for Dear Muslima and his treatment of Rebecca Watson would also not go amiss.”

  11. says

    There’s a definite difference between a general, heat-of-the-moment (for want of a better term) insult like “fuckwit” and a highly personalised epithet like “Twatson.” Especially when the latter kind is used continuously as part of a deliberate bullying campaign.

  12. says

    I chose “vulgar” in order to avoid more contested or loaded adjectives. Of course I don’t consider “fuckwit” to be vulgar.

    But seriously, the word is “epithets” – that’s the important part.

  13. PDX_Greg says

    Well, until he is big enough of a man to renounce his bullying of Rebecca Watson*, I’ll continue to consider him to be an individual so willingly blinded by his own privilege that he remains, despite being capable of brilliant thought and writing, just another sad example of a human who mistakes his own station in life makes his viewpoints better than everybody else.

    Yes, Mr. Dawkins, I am not denying that you have mostly earned your fame through decades of hard work, your brilliant thoughts, your wonderful writings, your talented way of expressing yourself, and your courage at publicly challenging deeply entrenched and cherished values and beliefs. It’s so sad that you could then let your success blind yourself to the extent that you would actually turn into a bully against somebody else who was trying to do the same. Being an expert on one subject does not make you an unquestionable authority in any other. One important lesson you have taught me is that there are no heroes. However, I still hold out hope that there are genuinely good people in this world. I wish you would join them.

    * By this I am specifically referring to his stated refusal to speak at conferences where Watson is speaking. Using his big name to bully conferences into not inviting lesser-known speakers that he has a disagreement with is inexcusably childish and reveals a troubling lack of character in a man I once looked up to as a hero.

  14. anteprepro says

    The Great and Mighty Dawkins has spoken. I wonder how many of his loyal sycophants who also happen to be up their knees in slyme will even bother to give a shit.

  15. blf says

    It my opinion, vulgar epithet is one, and hence this statement fails on its own measure.

    For those who don’t get the point: What one person may consider vulgar, others may (quite reasonably) not. And commonly-understand meanings change, language (English is notorious for this) change. Hence, you need some way of deciding if something is inappropriate.

    For instance, what about Tim Minchin’s The Pope Song? It seems that, according to these two fecking eejits, that song is unacceptable:


    And if you don’t like this swearing this motherfucker forced from me
    And reckon it shows moral or intellectual paucity
    Then fuck you motherfucker, this is language one employs
    When one is a little bit cross about fuckers fucking boys

    And if you look into your motherfucking heart and tell me true
    If this motherfucking stupid fucking song offended you
    With its filthy fucking language and its fucking disrespect
    If it made you feel angry go ahead and write a letter

    But if you find this sing more offensive than the possibility
    The pope protected priests when they were getting fucking fiddly
    Then listen to me, motherfucker, this here is a fact
    You are just as morally misguided as that motherfucking
    Power-hungry, self-aggrandised bigot in the stupid fucking hat

  16. David Chapman says

    13
    Ophelia Benson

    I chose “vulgar” in order to avoid more contested or loaded adjectives. Of course I don’t consider “fuckwit” to be vulgar.

    But seriously, the word is “epithets” – that’s the important part.

    I must confess I wasn’t sure exactly what epithet meant, I had to go and do some clicking.
    In fact it’s ambiguous, but one of the meanings is when some term is substituted for a person’s name, ( or nym, in the context of blogworld ). If one insisted on referring to Richard Dawkins as The Dork, for example. An offensive nickname in other words.

    Is this what you have in mind? Because I could see how that would be an irritatingly childish tactic, indeed. In effect it would be a refusal to take the person seriously, which is exactly the kind of thing which should be avoided.

  17. neverjaunty says

    I took ‘vulgar epithet’ to be code for “stop using gendered insults like ‘whore’ or ‘cunt’ to express your disagreement”.

    Nice of Dawkins to express the same minimum decency that one would expect of any civilized human being.

  18. consciousness razor says

    It doesn’t need to be treated as a nickname. An epithet could be as simple as calling someone an “asshole,” instead of referring to them by their name or a pronoun. I would think that anything insulting like that will be “vulgar” in the relevant sense (although you might do it in flawless Classical Latin), but maybe the redundancy is supposed to be there for emphasis, to make it sound like extra-bad stuff that isn’t just a run-of-the-mill insult.

  19. jodyp says

    This tells me the slymers have gotten so bad that not even Dawkins can ignore it anymore.

  20. johnmarley says

    @thewhollynone(@2)

    Of course, I realize that I am an old lady who speaks a different civil language from what passes today as civil discourse among younger people…

    Some of us have a hell of a strong fucking habit of goddamn casual swearing, so even normal conversation is liberally peppered with that shit. And I sure as hell am not going to fucking apologize for it. If that bothers you, it’s your fucking problem, I have real issues to worry about.

    …and I realize that perhaps I must change with the times or be considered an irrelevant fuckwit.

    The only one here calling you that is you. No one, afaik, is offended by lack of swearing.

    Nevertheless, it does seem to me that using vulgar epithets is still a sure sign that one is losing the thread of the argument.

    See my first point.

    That said, having been ignored, I will now go away.

    Ooh, passive-aggressive flounce. In the second comment on the thread, no less. That’s fucking impressive

  21. steve oberski says

    Swearing is a really important part of one’s life. It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing and without enjoying swearing… There used to be mad, silly, prissy people who used to say swearing was a sign of a poor vocabulary -such utter nonsense. The people I know who swear the most tend to have the widest vocabularies and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves… The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest or -is just a fucking lunatic… I haven’t met anybody who’s truly shocked at swearing, really, they’re only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that’s preposterous… or they say ‘it’s not necessary’. As if that should stop one doing it! It’s not necessary to have coloured socks, it’s not necessary for this cushion to be here, but is anyone going to write in and say ‘I was shocked to see that cushion there, it really wasn’t necessary’? No, things not being necessary is what makes life interesting -the little extras in life.

    Stephen Fry on the joys of swearing. Stephen Fry: Guilty, BBC4, September 8th 2007

  22. jenny6833a says

    It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.
    Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.
    In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.
    Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

    I do wish they’d also applied their suggestions to communicating with those outside “our community.”

    I also wish they’d condemned strawmanning, deliberate misconstrual of clear statements, attacks instead of requests for expansion or clarification, and all the other assinine argumenative sophomoric fuckwitted assholish chickenshit piffle that seems to be the modus operandi on FtB.

    If people here can’t think and write clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically on FtB, they won’t get far in persuading anyone outside “our community” of anything.

  23. says

    If people here can’t think and write clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically on FtB, they won’t get far in persuading anyone outside “our community” of anything.

    Examples?
    Why are you assuming that the way people interact here is the same way they interact with people in meatspace?

    I do wish they’d also applied their suggestions to communicating with those outside “our community.”

    How do you know Ophelia and Richard don’t do this? Why are you making assumptions?

    I also wish they’d condemned strawmanning, deliberate misconstrual of clear statements, attacks instead of requests for expansion or clarification, and all the other assinine argumenative sophomoric fuckwitted assholish chickenshit piffle that seems to be the modus operandi on FtB.

    LIKE WHAT?
    What strawmen?
    What misconstrual of clear statements?
    What attacks instead of requests for expansion or clarification?
    What asinine arguments?
    FFS you’re lambasting people here for doing something and you can’t even point to examples!
    Take your condescending, arrogant, dismissive, derisive, holier than thou attitude and shove it back to the slymepit where I’m beginning to think you came from.

  24. says

    Jenny #23

    and all the other assinine argumenative sophomoric fuckwitted assholish chickenshit piffle that seems to be the modus operandi on FtB

    Given that you’ve already admitted to criticising at least one FtB writer without bothering to read her words, please excuse me if I consider the above assertion to have been made in good faith.

  25. mikee says

    Tony! The Queer Shhop @7

    If I make a long comment about why I support same sex marriage and my reasoning behind it, but I include vulgarity, does the vulgarity negate my comment?

    I guess one question worth asking is what does the vulgarity ADD to your comments?

    For some people it is seems to be used to express the passion of their views, particularly frustration/annoyance at what they see as poor arguments.
    For others perhaps they see it as becoming emotive and don’t consider it a good idea for the person they are arguing with to see they are getting emotional?
    And of course there are cultural (and even occupational) differences – in some cultures/occupations vulgarity is considered to be, well vulgar :-)
    Having been reading Pharyngula and associated blogs for a few years now, I’m more interested in the underlying reasoning of any argument.

  26. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I don’t know why JennyNumbers comes ’round at all. She has a very, very hard time understanding basic concepts. One wonders if her comments would be more coherent and sensibly focused if she herself understood correctly what other people say.

  27. says

    mikee:

    I guess one question worth asking is what does the vulgarity ADD to your comments?

    I think that’s a reasonable question.
    Using profanity often allows me to express my emotion in shorthand. Sometimes I read a headline and I’ll respond with “That sucks.” If I’m particularly enraged by the headline I might respond with “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!” There’s a difference between the two. The intensity of my frustration or anger is expressed in the simple word ‘fuck’ in a way that “that sucks” doesn’t quite manage.

    When I read a headline that’s extremely angering, such as anything from the Westboro Baptist Church, I might express myself with “Godfucking dammit! Why do these assholes continue to fight against simple human equality?” Frustration, exasperation, anger, angst. I can convey those feelings using harsh words. They’re adjectives-they are there to enhance whatever I’m feeling. Take them away and for my part-the intensity of what I’m trying to convey is muted. You *can* remove them, however, and the underlying message is still there (most of the time; I do try to make sure a point or an argument is present when I’m utilizing coarse language). Which is why we so often criticize tone trolls for ignoring the substance of a comment when they moan about profanity.

    While the use of coarse words isn’t *necessary*, I choose to use the words bc I like them. I like using the words to express or enhance my thoughts and feelings. At the end of the day, they’re just words that have been infused with such cultural power that it’s frankly astonishing. Yeah, it’s a two sided sword, I know. On the one hand, I’m using words that have immense cultural power. Due to their taboo nature, I can be relatively assured that the intensity will be understood by those who read them. On the other hand, I wish the words would stop being considered so taboo. I wish people didn’t have hangups about a few colorful words. The word ‘fuck’ is just a word, yet there are people who are so hung up on it (on multiple levels, depending on which meaning is being discussed) that they refuse to engage in a conversation if people use it. So long as the coarse language is seen as provocative or taboo, they can be used for enhancing a discussion or shock effect, I suppose (however, I rarely make a comment or have a discussion where the only thing said is a profane word).

    At the end of the day, the use of profanity is a means of expression. As long as I’m not punching down, I see no reason not to express myself in a particular manner.

    For some people it is seems to be used to express the passion of their views, particularly frustration/annoyance at what they see as poor arguments.

    I often use coarse language for this reason.

    For others perhaps they see it as becoming emotive and don’t consider it a good idea for the person they are arguing with to see they are getting emotional?

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here.

    And of course there are cultural (and even occupational) differences – in some cultures/occupations vulgarity is considered to be, well vulgar

    See, and I find it curious that some words are walled off from use. They’re put into this box that says “DO NOT OPEN” or “OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK” or “USE IN CASE OF EMERGENCY”. Why? Why are they walled off? What makes their use so utterly horrible that they’re off limits? Why these few words? Words related, in many cases (overwhelmingly perhaps) to sexuality or sex organs. Fuck. Shit. Asshole. D*ck. P*ssy (the latter two not as slurs). Curiously, these words are considered off limits to many people. It’s really interesting that in the US, as a whole our society is sexually repressed, and these words, with their associations with sex and sexuality, are considered off limits. It’s even more curious that these words, along with discussions of sex, and pretty much anything to do with sex, are heavily regulated by religion. I’ve yet to see a non-religious reason why I shouldn’t use harsh/coarse/swear/profane/curse words (and obviously being an atheist, I don’t give a rat’s ass about religiously derived opposition to language).
    Who is harmed by the use of harsh language? Seriously, aside from the religious opposition to profanity (right there in the word), what’s the actual problem with using these words?
    “I’ve been raised to think they’re wrong” or “Using profanity is a sign of lack of education” isn’t a sufficient argument for why the use of profanity is bad (the former is just an excuse, not an argument, and the latter isn’t even true).

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Jenny:

    If people here can’t think and write clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically on FtB, they won’t get far in persuading anyone outside “our community” of anything.

    Here I don’t quite understand arguments you think are perfectly clear. They are mud. They are muddled. They are often pointless. They are often incomplete.

    You just don’t like loud atheists. There is a way to avoid us loud atheists. Very simple, very easy, and very practical. You stop reading FtB and the bloggers therein.

  29. krubozumo says

    Much like Mikee immediately above I tend to try to see the argument and ignore the embellishments.

    Pharyngula comment threads are always entertaining to read.

    To me it is somewhat comedic that vulgarity is commonplace in most ordinary conversation yet when one commits thoughts to words in a more solid form it becomes questionable. Just another of the absurd traits of human discorse that render it mostly ineffectual. By that I mean simply that even if you ‘win’ an argument decisively, that does not mean you have changed your opponents mind or any of the attitudes your opponents adherents.

    I do think that reasonable discourse should try to avoid appeals to emotion and other visceral reactions
    simply because such tactics are so cheap and weak. It is one thing to sway someone on an issue in the
    short term, it is quite another thing to convince them of a point of view.

    I think I will now go down and take a walk on the beach and listen to the songs of the Atlantic.

    Ciao pharyngulites. ..

  30. mikee says

    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I completely understand the use of “vulgarity” to express emotion but this is also one of the reasons I choose to avoid it in written debate. If an opponent can see that they are getting me angry then I think that gives them an advantage – they have found a point that annoys me and know to keep playing on it to wind me up. I think that takes away from rational debate.
    Also, by using vulgarity it gives your opponent the ability to take a conversation off track by arguing over “vulgarity” instead of focusing on the question at hand.
    This is how I choose to debate; I’m not saying it is the right way, but it is the right way for me. Also I work in the education sector and in real life letting of a chain of expletives publicly is not likely to keep me employed, no matter how therapeutic it may be.
    I completely agree with you that some of the reasons you list above aren’t rational reasons to avoid using profanity. I guess I avoid it out of efficiency of effort – I think it can distract from the issue at hand.

  31. anteprepro says

    mikee

    I guess one question worth asking is what does the vulgarity ADD to your comments?

    Emphasis. That’s my guess.

    jennynumbers

    If people here can’t think and write clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically on FtB, they won’t get far in persuading anyone outside “our community” of anything.

    Mirror, mirror, jenny.

  32. says

    mikee:

    If an opponent can see that they are getting me angry then I think that gives them an advantage – they have found a point that annoys me and know to keep playing on it to wind me up. I think that takes away from rational debate.

    Doesn’t this rest upon the assumption on the part of your opponent that vulgarity=anger?

  33. mikee says

    Tony! The Queer Shoop @34

    Good point.

    My experience is that vulgarity typically is used as an expression of anger, or frustration, both of which I see as making one vulnerable in a debate – exposing a point that someone can play on to wind you up.
    Of course this could be a cultural difference, I’m in New Zealand and my experience is that most people using vulgarity when angry or really frustrated.
    Are there other emotions that I have missed which might result in someone using vulgarity?

  34. says

    Mikee:

    My experience is that vulgarity typically is used as an expression of anger, or frustration, both of which I see as making one vulnerable in a debate – exposing a point that someone can play on to wind you up.

    Also, I’m not as certain as you appear to be that the above is the case. While vulgarity can be used to express anger or frustration, that doesn’t inherently weaken a position in an argument. The argument stands or falls on its own merits.

  35. carlie says

    If an opponent can see that they are getting me angry then I think that gives them an advantage – they have found a point that annoys me and know to keep playing on it to wind me up. I think that takes away from rational debate.

    I reject that concept utterly and entirely. It is totally vacuous. Claiming that proper, logical, rational debate has to take place in an arena devoid of emotional content is claiming that emotional reaction is not a logical, rational, justifiable response to the situation. Guess what? Sometimes it is. Sometimes not being emotional is displaying a paucity of humanity. If you don’t get emotional when talking about, say, people being tortured to death just because of who they are, then I honestly don’t think you have any right to participate in discussions on How Society Ought To Be. Having an emotional response to a topic is part and parcel of the importance of the topic, not some kind of fault in your brain. Have you heard the phrase “If you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention”? Some sort of detached emotionaless void is a hindrance to full discussion of all of the ramifications of a position, not an ideal.

  36. carlie says

    I mean, think of the most powerful political speeches. Think of the I have a dream speech, Think of the Take down this wall speech. Think of the decision to go to the moon speech. The “ask not what your country can do for you” speech. Were those devoid of emotion? Of course not, the emotion made them stronger. Expressing anger or frustration or sadness or other emotions is not a detriment to persuasion.

  37. mikee says

    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I actually never thought of it as contempt. My interpretation when I see profanity is that it means that someone is angry/frustrated.
    I guess that is the challenge of profanity being used for a range of emotions and also of the slightly different filters we all have, which will have cultural/experiential biases.

    The think I do like about Pharyngula, is whether there is vulgarity or not, some of the commenters here such as yourself, make one think more deeply.

  38. carlie says

    I guess one question worth asking is what does the vulgarity ADD to your comments?

    Variety? Spice? Diversity of word choice? I spent the first, oh, 35 years or so of my life never letting a vulgar word pass my lips. Now I swear whenever I feel like it. I like this way better.

  39. Rey Fox says

    I guess one question worth asking is what does the vulgarity ADD to your comments?

    To me, it shows that the person fucking cares about the issue.

  40. consciousness razor says

    Are there other emotions that I have missed which might result in someone using vulgarity?

    What do you count as an emotion? Expressing indifference would basically be doing just the opposite of anger or annoyance (e.g., “I don’t give a fuck”). Arousal (sexual or otherwise) would be another (e.g., “that’s fucking amazing”), as well as expressing disbelief (e.g., “that’s fucking hard to believe”) or a lack of knowledge (e.g. “I don’t fucking know”). And so forth. These are sometimes about adding the right sort of color and emphasis to a statement, instead of something flat and uninformative like “I don’t care” or “I don’t know” or “I don’t believe.”

    This makes a difference. You could, for example, say “I don’t know” to a creationist, just like that, and they might read it a certain way and twist it around into some kind of a problem (for you, your entire worldview, everyone and their dog, whatever). But if you really own it and say it with such emphasis, it’s much harder for them to construe it as something you’d be embarrassed about or as some kind of admission of failure (or whatever silly thing the creationist would do with it). And for example, if you really do not fucking accept racism, for example, then the racists can fuck themselves as much as they very well fucking ought to — and saying that should not be held back by considerations of how “calm” or “rational” you supposedly look doing it, even compared to the fucking fuckers who are saying racist fucking shit. Is it hard to see how there’s a valid place for that kind of expression, even if it is angry or annoyed or whatever?

    Of course they’re not all appropriate in an educational setting, generally (although I would say some terms like “bullshit” should be more widely accepted even there), but in any case, that’s very different from the larger setting of intellectual discourse in general. You are not always in the business of educating people, or children in particular who may not understand the context and the history in which you’re saying these things. Sometimes, you’re doing a whole lot of things other than that. You’re persuading. You’re speaking your own mind, as honestly and as descriptively as you know how to do. If the way you know how to do that is with some “foul” thing, then that is probably how you ought to do it.

    If an opponent can see that they are getting me angry then I think that gives them an advantage – they have found a point that annoys me and know to keep playing on it to wind me up. I think that takes away from rational debate.

    Doing anything, for any reason, just to wind somebody up takes away from rational debate. It is not your own fault that (1) they annoy you while you indicate this fact verbally or otherwise, and (2) they are doing this to drive the discussion off the rails. This sort of unproductive or even manipulative behavior should be avoided, not recognizing (and of course, saying) that you think it’s happening.

  41. Rey Fox says

    If people here can’t think and write clearly, concisely, logically, and ethically on FtB, they won’t get far in persuading anyone outside “our community” of anything.

    Whenever people start in with that talk, I always just think of Adam Sandler doing the mother from Carrie. “THEY’RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU!!”

    I don’t know why JennyNumbers comes ’round at all. She has a very, very hard time understanding basic concepts.

    Particularly if they’re written by Greta Christina.

  42. closeted says

    @21

    It comes down to intent, and to context. Are you using your words primarily to get your self-expression out, or to get somebody else to understand your particular passion? I swear with my friends all the time, but if I am trying to persuade/convince somebody like @2, then dropping a vulgarity into the middle of my carefully reasoned argument can be self-defeating. I don’t know if they think I am angry, or if I lack education, or if I am just an asshole — all I know is that the vulgarity weakens my case in their eyes. I agree that it shouldn’t, but if I need to persuade or convince, rather than just express my feelings, that makes it my fucking problem, not theirs.

  43. carlie says

    but if I am trying to persuade/convince somebody like @2, then dropping a vulgarity into the middle of my carefully reasoned argument can be self-defeating.

    Depends on what you’re trying to convince them of, doesn’t it? If someone says “You’re hurting me”, that doesn’t pack much persuasive power. But an emphatic “You’re treating me like absolute shit, and it fucking HURTS” is a lot more likely to get the point across.

  44. says

    closeted:

    I swear with my friends all the time, but if I am trying to persuade/convince somebody like @2, then dropping a vulgarity into the middle of my carefully reasoned argument can be self-defeating.

    re: comment #2 from thewhollynone
    She was expressing her dislike for using profanity while telling us that she adheres to an antiquated notion of discourse, as well as expressing disdain for those of us who use harsh words. Her notion of discourse is one informed by so-called civility or “proper” discourse, which is fucked up, IMO (and I’ve already gone into my reasons why I think the opposition to profanity is largely without merit).

    Nevertheless, it does seem to me that using vulgar epithets is still a sure sign that one is losing the thread of the argument.

    As I pointed out in response to her, the above sentence isn’t remotely true.

  45. Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending says

    Al Dente #9

    I’m 66 and I will call a fuckwit a fuckwit if they’re being a fuckwit.

    johnmarley #21

    Ooh, passive-aggressive flounce. In the second comment on the thread, no less. That’s fucking impressive

    Tony! The Queer Shoop #43

    Using profanity is like making use of more tools from the kit.

    These^^^ All good. Pleasure to read the fuckin’ thread.

  46. says

    Was somebody under the impression that Richard Dawkins is pro-harassment?

    No, I don’t think anyone here was under that misapprehension. That was never the issue; it was his ongoing silence, which has been of about three year’s duration.

  47. screechymonkey says

    Lachlan @36:

    Was somebody under the impression that Richard Dawkins is pro-harassment?

    I think some of the slymepitters think that, yes. At least in a “will no one rid me of these turbulent feminists” sort of way.

  48. says

    There are some wave patterns generated via air molecules that are inherently offensive regardless of context or intent.

    Vibrating the air molecules that way just shows you don’t have the intelligence to vibrate them more appropriately.

    etc.

  49. says

    I consider ALL epithets to be vulgar.

    Seriously. What an utter lack of taste, wearing gaudy gold crap on your shoulders just to try to make yourself look more important than other people. Only an asshole would do that.

    What?
    Oh.

    nevermind.

  50. mamba24 says

    I’m sure Richard Dawkins appreciates the approval of the moral arbiter PZ Myers…

  51. says

    Insults draw their power from invidious comparison. I.e.: they are either true, or false; the power of the insult is whether or not it is true and whether what it is compared to is truly offensive.

    For example, if someone tells me I am like a lumpen, fat, potato – well, it is true. The insult there is that I am potato-like and it hurts because, I suppose, I wish I looked like Brad Pitt in ‘Snatch’. But I have never looked like Brad Pitt in Snatch and even Brad Pitt only looked like that for a little while. It’s not much of an insult to point out the truth that I do not look like Brad Pitt in ‘Snatch’. So, fuck you, you are just being mean.
    Or, perhaps, you say I do not look like Molly Ringwald in ‘The Breakfast Club’ – well, that is true. I do not. I am an aging male and looking like that is simply not an option. If you’re making fun of me for not looking as good as Molly Ringwald, well, duuuuuh, fuck you. We agree she looks better than I do.
    If you parse apart attempts to insult you, they are either true (in which case you can do something about them) or they are truths you cannot do anything about (I’m never going to look like Molly Ringwald, sorry) of they’re outright lies. In most cases, they say more about the person throwing the insult than the target.

  52. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    PR staff got their hands on Dawkins. Nice.
    Did they also ban him from using Twitter without supervision?

  53. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Given recent events at Ophelia’s blog, I’m NOT sure her releasing a joint statement with Richard Dawkins is a step forward.

    “Dear Translima…”

  54. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    See, I don’t understand this. How does the use of vulgarity mean one is losing the thread?

    “Vulgarity”, where it doesn’t mean “slurs,” means “talking like a poor person.” Everyone knows peasants don’t have the brains for real intellectual discussion and disputes. Therefore, any peasant who thus reveals his or her* self maybe be summarily and justly dismissed. HARRUMPH!

    *”their” is peasant talk, as you SURELY know!

  55. Scr... Archivist says

    Tony @29,

    “That sucks.”
    … “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!”
    … Words related, in many cases (overwhelmingly perhaps) to sexuality or sex organs. Fuck. Shit. Asshole. D*ck. P*ssy (the latter two not as slurs). Curiously, these words are considered off limits to many people. It’s really interesting that in the US, as a whole our society is sexually repressed, and these words, with their associations with sex and sexuality, are considered off limits. It’s even more curious that these words, along with discussions of sex, and pretty much anything to do with sex, are heavily regulated by religion. I’ve yet to see a non-religious reason why I shouldn’t use harsh/coarse/swear/profane/curse words… .

    Okay, let me try.

    What I find even more curious than religionists’ policing of language is the continued association of sexuality with “badness” by people who have largely removed religious dogma from their minds.

    Words such as “fucking” and (as far as I can tell) “suck” are used as terms of negativity or wrongness by people who are not actually against sexuality. To use these two examples, there is nothing profane or course about enthusiastic sexual intercourse, or oral sex. So why make them out to be bad news?

    The reason is probably that such usage is just a habit gained from the ambient culture, the same way an atheist might still say “God damn it” even though they know there is no deity to do the condemning. That and the fact that we don’t seem to have found any substitute terms in English.

    I think we need to find better exclamations and adjectives of emphasis, ones that respect modern society’s acceptance and approval of sex organs and healthy, consensual sexual activities. It would be one more way to throw off sexual repression.

    For example, I use “frakking” intead of “fucking” as a negative term because hydrofracking for fossil fuels genuinely is a terrible thing, and the word already has some currency in geeky circles. In contrast, when done right, fucking is a good thing.

    Are there any other languages, perhaps in pro-sex societies, whose curses already avoid denigrating good things? Maybe we can adapt some of their practices, and help remove some stigma from things that don’t deserve it.

  56. Maureen Brian says

    My use of supposedly coarse language is part of my atheism.

    I acknowledge that there’s an element of ex post facto rationalisation here for I first began to do it when I was feeling constricted by middle class respectability. I wanted to prove I was tough and independent. I must have been about 15 at the time.

    In the light of later events and a little anthropology while at uni it made sense and was a perfectly good place to start. Every single word about which people might nowadays be concerned is part of a religious taboo. No mentions of the deity, even in euphemised form? Check. No mention of key ideas within the religion? Check. No mention of things sexual because sex is a sacrament and only for procreation and/or women are unclean during menstruation and after childbirth? Check. No mention of defecation because the hand which wipes your arse is permanently unclean and must not be used to touch the Qu’ran? Check. And so on and so forth.

    On that last example, if I call a person a shit-face some will be offended. If I call them cack-handed no-one will bat an eyelid. Why? It’s the same word and the same taboo. There are several of us here old enough to remember the cruel and unusual methods used to “persuade” left-handers to write with their right – long after we knew that it was about how the brain was wired not some wicked determination to break that very same taboo?

    I’m with Carlie and others here. The use of these words does not indicate paucity of vocabulary. They are signals of seriousness, of concern, emotion or anger. Dropping the word fuck into a sentence is often equivalent to the teacher’s classic shout of, “Pay attention at the back there.” We are deploying the whole of our vocabulary to maximum effect.

    So I suppose this is a challenge, folks. Can anyone find me a word in English considered too coarse for everyday use which does not relate to any known religious taboo?

  57. carlie says

    “Vulgarity”, where it doesn’t mean “slurs,” means “talking like a poor person.” Everyone knows peasants don’t have the brains for real intellectual discussion and disputes. Therefore, any peasant who thus reveals his or her* self maybe be summarily and justly dismissed. HARRUMPH!

    That’s absolutely it, isn’t it? At the base of it all is “I’m better than the people who use THAT kind of language”, wherein it’s uneducated, poor people they’re referring to.

    My use of supposedly coarse language is part of my atheism.

    Oh yes, yes, yes. I was raised to believe that not only was saying “fuck” a coarse thing to do, it was a sin. Using it now is a direct exhibition of the fact that I can’t be scared by that threat any more.

  58. says

    pdxgreg at 14

    re Dawkins bullying by refusing to speak at any conference where RW is invited.

    How the hell is that any different to PZ refusing to speak at any conference where Abbie is invited?

    I said that was bullying and disgraceful at the time. Seems it depends which foot the shoe is on?

  59. opposablethumbs says

    36
    Lachlan

    26 July 2014 at 10:47 pm (UTC -5) Link to this comment

    Was somebody under the impression that Richard Dawkins is pro-harassment?

    As Xanthë (#52) and screechymonkey (#53) have pointed out, some harassers do appear to have been under that impression.

  60. Louis says

    What does vulgarity add? THAT is a good question! And more than adequately answered above.

    I’ll add this from Billy Connolly. “Fuck off” is not the same as “go away”.

    Louis

  61. carlie says

    How the hell is that any different to PZ refusing to speak at any conference where Abbie is invited?

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Punching down instead of up. RW did nothing but mildly express the opinion that getting hit on in enclosed places is uncomfortable. Abbie encouraged an entire group of people to actively harass others.

  62. dahduh says

    @62
    The problem with epithets of any kind, vulgar or not, is that it creates an “us” and “them” dichotomy. Humans are exquisitely sensitive to identity and two of our main moral intuitions – loyalty and respect for authority – are tied up in this. You can’t have a conversation with someone who you have just identified as being excluded from your in group.

    This is quite different from “causing offence”, which simply has to be broached since anyone can choose to be offended by anything at all.

    Example: “You women are all the same” (non-course epithet, avoid). “You are shit-faced” (non-epithet, gauche in some circles but legitimate if that person is really drunk).

  63. colonel cocoa says

    Even the great PZ uses fuckwit a lot. I think it’s a bit over used and quite childish. Earthshatteringly stupid would be more descriptive. It’s not a real word, but nobody here really cares.

  64. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s not a real word, but nobody here really cares.

    Yes, it is used when great stupidity is used against us. Making it very effective in telling folks they need to back up, stop sloganeering, and really think about the replies they are getting.

  65. monoman . says

    @67 Carlie:

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Punching down instead of up. RW did nothing but mildly express the opinion that getting hit on in enclosed places is uncomfortable. Abbie encouraged an entire group of people to actively harass others.

    It’s exactly the same. PZ Myers and Abby are both invited to speak. PZ says he won’t be attending because of Abby. Abby is disinvited because PZ is the bigger name.

  66. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s exactly the same. PZ Myers and Abby are both invited to speak. PZ says he won’t be attending because of Abby. Abby is disinvited because PZ is the bigger name.

    Nope, the reasons are different. If you can’t/won’t (my guess is the latter) acknowledge that, you do have problems with rational thinking.

  67. says

    Abby is disinvited because PZ is the bigger name.

    This happened…when? The only time I’ve had a con organizer ask me about a possible conflict between us two, I assured them that we’d be professional about it, and even said Abby would be a fine speaker. And then later, they invited her, not me.

    As far as I know, there hasn’t been one single instance of Abby being “disinvited”, and one instance where it was a factor (not the only one, I’m sure) in not inviting me.

    So now you’re inventing facts. Is this one of the things skeptics do?

  68. says

    @36 Lachlan

    Was somebody under the impression that Richard Dawkins is pro-harassment?

    I was. He has no problem retweeting harassers thus giving their activities his stamp of approval. He said nothing after Rebecca and then Jen began to be harassed and threatened. And I just don’t buy the idea that anyone, even he, could be so aloof and out of touch as to be unaware of it all.

    In fact, I’m pretty much still under that impression. Given his past behaviour, I feel that this statement is just easy empty words. They make him look like a moral person without his having to do any of the work.

  69. monoman . says

    PZ Myers

    I’m not inventing facts, I worded it as a hypothetical. I wasn’t claiming that’s happened to you or Abby.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “we’d be professional about it”, unless you mean that you politely turned down their offer. Although unlikely, it’s also possible that Dawkins could do the same and Watson remain on the roster.

  70. says

    monoman:

    It’s exactly the same. PZ Myers and Abby are both invited to speak. PZ says he won’t be attending because of Abby. Abby is disinvited because PZ is the bigger name.

    Not good with nuance are you? It’s only similar on the surface. When you dig down, to the meat of the two situations, they’re quite noticeably different. Don’t judge the surface.

  71. says

    monoman:

    I don’t understand what you mean by “we’d be professional about it”, unless you mean that you politely turned down their offer.

    They would interact like professionals if they had to interact. Duh.

  72. monoman . says

    @hyperdeath

    In theory no. In practice yes.

    So you read what I posted as a factual statement as well and not as a hypothetical?

  73. monoman . says

    @80 Tony

    They would interact like professionals if they had to interact. Duh.

    Which is why I said I don’t understand it since PZ has said he won’t attend the same conference.

    What’s with the Duh? Is that supposed to be the noise a mentally disabled person makes?

  74. monoman . says

    @74 Nerd

    Nope, the reasons are different. If you can’t/won’t (my guess is the latter) acknowledge that, you do have problems with rational thinking.

    Explain the reasons to me. I know that PZ and Abby don’t get along anymore. I know that Dawkins and Watson don’t get along anymore because of the Dear Muslima from Dawkins and the Skepchick post(s) and boycott from Watson.

  75. Reginald Selkirk says

    Henceforth, all joint statments should be made from Colorado or Washington state.

  76. monoman . says

    Daz

    Huh? The initial responses were to Mog Kuposon #64, where it most certainly wasn’t posed as a hypothetical, but reads as an accusation.

    Eh? Mog didn’t say that PZ Myers has refused to speak at a specific conference. They said that PZ Myers has said he refuses to speak at a conference with Abby.

    If the accusation is that PZ Myers has said he won’t speak at a conference with Abby, then this is true!

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/05/24/there-is-no-blacklist/

  77. says

    monoman #86

    My fault for bad wording. I didn’t mean to imply that the original accusation was untrue. I merely meant to remind you that your hypothetical (unlabelled as such) wasn’t dropped into a context-free void where it would be easily recognised as a hypothetical.

  78. says

    I am still trying to get some bearing on this. Is this about the anti-feminist vs feminist movement that erupted quite recently, or general behavior between groups that disagree?

    I understand that bullying or being overly pushy isn’t in the best interest of the movement, no matter which movement it is.

  79. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am still trying to get some bearing on this. Is this about the anti-feminist vs feminist movement that erupted quite recently, or general behavior between groups that disagree?

    If you haven’t ever heard of elevatorgate, and the reaction to Rebecca Watson saying “guys, don’t do that”, and the death threats and harasssment of RW and others, including PZ, afterwards, you need to bone up on the subject. Visit a place called the slymepit, where this bad behavior comes from.

  80. monoman . says

    Daz #87

    No probs, It just felt hypothetical the way I worded it. Obviously not!

  81. Pan Paniscus says

    #77

    He has no problem retweeting harassers thus giving their activities his stamp of approval.

    He is likely unaware of who all the people who tweet to him are (he has nearly a million followers), and likely retweets based only on the tweet itself.

    He said nothing after Rebecca and then Jen began to be harassed and threatened.

    Hmm. FTB did their best to ostracise Dawkins at that time. Then they want Dawkins’s help in stomping on harassers? Well, ok, I sort of agree, everyone should be be vocal in objecting to some of the harassment that has gone on.

    And I just don’t buy the idea that anyone, even he, could be so aloof and out of touch as to be unaware of it all.

    Plenty of people are not avid readers of the relevant blogs (FTB, Skepchick, etc). It really is possible to be oblivious to this stuff! This would particularly be so about blogs have taken a critical attitude to Dawkins, and may not be on his prefered reading list.

  82. David Marjanović says

    Following up on comment 60… what exactly does “vulgar” mean in English? The German version is a thoroughly classist word – derived straight from the fact that vulgus was a pejorative for the common people in Classical Latin – and therefore used quite rarely these days.

    We can’t mock people’s haircuts? I think that’s going a bit too far.

    That might be a reference to feminist hair (defined as whatever Rebecca Watson has had).

    I’m sure Richard Dawkins appreciates the approval of the moral arbiter PZ Myers…

    Translation: Only authorities are allowed to express an opinion about important things.

    Are there any other languages, perhaps in pro-sex societies, whose curses already avoid denigrating good things? Maybe we can adapt some of their practices, and help remove some stigma from things that don’t deserve it.

    Oh dear. Be aware that you’re specifically talking about modern English. Different languages use different things for their curses.

    In English and many other European languages, the method of choice to shock people in order to express strong emotions used to be blasphemy: “for God’s sake” (taking the Lord’s non-name in vain), “what the devil”, “the devil knows what” – compare current Canadian French tabernac’ and sacrement or Italian porco Dio and porca Madonna. Unsurprisingly, that was considered a sin and made taboo; and this taboo was quickly extended to all curses.

    So, some languages use religion, others use sexuality, and yet others use excretion. Where English has pussy, twat and cunt, southeastern German has a single word that I’ve heard less than 10 times in my entire life (all of them in elementary school) and seen written less than 5 times (including the graffito that proclaims it good when it stinks). Instead of “fuck off”, we say “piss off” or, in Vienna (borrowed from Czech), “go shit” and “go into the ass”.

    Dutch uses illness, no doubt stemming from the religious (Calvinist?) idea that if you’re ill, you’re probably being punished for heinous sins and deserve insult in addition to your injury. “Cancer sufferer” has recently been joined by “AIDS sufferer”.

    You can’t have a conversation with someone who you have just identified as being excluded from your in group.

    Seriously, speak for yourself.

    Plenty of people are not avid readers of the relevant blogs (FTB, Skepchick, etc). It really is possible to be oblivious to this stuff! This would particularly be so about blogs have taken a critical attitude to Dawkins, and may not be on his prefered reading list.

    Translation: “Dawkins is talking about things he isn’t informed about.”

  83. says

    Okay got a better picture of the issue after searching around, it is actually both. The recent explosion just highlighted the behavior. And I fully agree with them on the topic.

    Cheers.

  84. Pan Paniscus says

    #92 David Marjanović

    Translation: “Dawkins is talking about things he isn’t informed about.”

    Why sure, I expect he is, and he does it quite a lot. So when he re-tweets a tweet he may genuinely have no idea about who the tweeter is (but then the Horde are aware, and are inflamed, seeing it as approval of various other activities of that tweeter, which was not at all the intent of the re-tweet).

    Indeed, going back to “Dear Muslima”, I’m, willing to bet that Dawkins had never seen the original RW video, and had little idea of the participants, and was only partially informed about the whole storm (which would have been quite easy for anyone not following closely).

    He then got bemused about the whole storm, and his comment wasn’t so much aimed at anyone in paticular, but was a comment in general to the atheist community that the issue of “elevatorgate” was minor. Which it indeed was! Everyone thinks that RW’s original video was mild and hardly worth any fuss (on either side).

    But, what Dawkins didn’t realise was that the storm wasn’t really about the video, it was about the reaction to the reaction to the video, and the reaction to the reaction to the reaction, et cetera. Dawkins was likely very under-informed about all of that, and thus made a mis-step in “Dear Muslima” in not really understanding what the storm had developed into.

    Of course, the Horde then assumed that Dawkins *was* fully informed about all that, and thus took it as calculated, and thus interpreted as far worse (and far more condescending to RW) than its intent actually was.

    A lot of this could be somewhat defused if people did consider more whether someone else was under-informed, rather than taking a worst intepretation by assuming that they are fully informed and deliberately calculating.

  85. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    #95 Pan Paniscus

    Of course, the Horde then assumed that Dawkins *was* fully informed about all that, and thus took it as calculated, and thus interpreted as far worse (and far more condescending to RW) than its intent actually was.

    Your assuming that’s what we assumed. Why not go fucking read for yourself what was said when it first occurred?

    A lot of this could be somewhat defused if people did consider more whether someone else was under-informed, rather than taking a worst intepretation by assuming that they are fully informed and deliberately calculating.

    No. Dear Muslima isn’t any better with the half-assed ignorant of the facts defense. That makes it worse.

  86. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Dawkins seems to be ill informed about a lot of things he likes to opine about. People also misunderstand him quite often.

    Awfully strange to happen so often to someone so intelligent with such a way with words.

    (To quote:

    English is my native language. My words mean what I intend. If you read them differently because of “social context” that’s your problem.

    source
    I like that quote. It says so much.)

  87. says

    @92 Pan Paniscus

    I said I don’t buy it. No one, not even the exalted Dawkins-from-on-high could be so oblivious while still interacting in the relevant on- and offline milieux–which doesn’t only consist of FtB. Especially in light of his own tweets and what he’s chosen to retweet and set apart for his praise (e.g. Jaclyn Glenn’s recent videos). And your framing it as us wanting help from him (as though we are peons asking the lord for his favour) rather than us expecting him to be a moral person on his own volition, especially as he knows his visibility to those outside in the larger world, is rather telling.

  88. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    Me :

    Why not go fucking read for yourself what was said when it first occurred?

    Like here.

    There’s also places talking about it right when it happened like here. Seems people forget he made that comment on Pharyngula. So if he’s really ignorant about it, that means he’s so awful as to not even read the OP before commenting.

  89. consciousness razor says

    Of course, the Horde then assumed that Dawkins *was* fully informed about all that, and thus took it as calculated, and thus interpreted as far worse (and far more condescending to RW) than its intent actually was.

    Ignorant pontificating is really far less condescending … how do you figure that?

    He in fact doesn’t know the extent the of problems or even what various parties to whom he’s responding have said; but he nevertheless goes on to obliviously trash their concerns and tells them to worry about other shit, about which he’s also presumably ignorant. He doesn’t know, doesn’t care, yet his intent is supposed to be better somehow? Better than what, a comic book supervillian? And the mistake we’re supposed to focus on now is I guess that somebody somewhere (namely, “the Horde”) actually did think they were dealing with a supervillian instead of an ignorant, condescending ass?

    Is this another one of those “hypotheticals” that isn’t actually presented as a hypothetical? If you state a counterfactual as fact, without conditionalizing it or reasoning about it as such, isn’t that just a false statement?

  90. says

    #95 @Pan Paniscus

    Of course, the Horde then assumed that Dawkins *was* fully informed about all that, and thus took it as calculated, and thus interpreted as far worse (and far more condescending to RW) than its intent actually was.

    He had every opportunity to inform himself in that very thread he commented in. The context of Watson’s video, the reason why she said what she did and how it relates to women’s everyday experience, why the ‘Dear Muslima’ response is insulting to both western feminists and feminists in the Islamic world, not to mention demeaning to Rebecca herself–all of it was gone over in great detail. Did he read any of it? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever the case, his response to being critiqued was not to educate himself, it was to double down. And then spend the next several years giving a signal boost to anti-feminist harassers and other assorted assholes.

    #96 @JAL

    Your assuming that’s what we assumed. Why not go fucking read for yourself what was said when it first occurred?

    Out of curiosity, is this possible? I thought the comments got sucked into the Science Blogs black hole.

  91. says

    I actually don’t agree that Dawkins is in any way hypocritical here.

    Given Dawkins own actions, has he ever resorted to acting in this way that he says is wrong? Well I have never seen him do that once not in any video or news I have seen on the man. I have seen comments taken out of context to condemn him. I don’t think he wants to see a bunch of bullying and violence.

    So someone else may interpret his words to mean a much more aggressive push, but that is on them.

  92. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So someone else may interpret his words to mean a much more aggressive push, but that is on them.

    Have you checked out the slymepit (google it, the link is banned here)? Essentially this is the first condemnation of the slymepit by Dawkins. Keep up with things.

  93. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    103
    Wes Aaron

    I don’t think he wants to see a bunch of bullying and violence.

    Then why is he agreeing and promoting anti-feminists? Like here.

    Relevant thread is here If you’re so attached to copying Dawkins’s laziness, here’s a tidbit from the video (paraphrased): Some woman she never identifies supposedly said, He invited me to have coffee in his hotel room! That’s sexual harassment!”.

    Still wanna claim he’s soooo ignorant about the issues and just a nice guy? Anyone?

  94. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Pan Paniscus:

    But, what Dawkins didn’t realise was that the storm wasn’t really about the video, it was about the reaction to the reaction to the video, and the reaction to the reaction to the reaction, et cetera. Dawkins was likely very under-informed about all of that, and thus made a mis-step in “Dear Muslima” in not really understanding what the storm had developed into.

    This is utter bullshit. If he wasn’t aware of the reaction and the reaction to the reaction he would never have written “Dear Muslima”. The point of “Dear Muslima” was to short circuit these reactions that he believed to be in a destructive feedback loop. He couldn’t have written it at all, then, without being aware that the loop existed.

    Of course, the Horde then assumed that Dawkins *was* fully informed about all that, and thus took it as calculated, and thus interpreted as far worse

    Again, bullshit. No one assumed Dawkins was “fully” informed about anything. But here’s the thing: he clearly perceived a loop – we know that because breaking the circle was the point of the Dear Muslima. So what’s at issue are his judgements about whether the loop is destructive, what the harm is, who is responsible, and who should take one for the team to end the larger harm.

    In Dawkins’ judgement, as expressed by his actual words, the loop was destructive at least in part because 1) incidents such as elevator gate do not, in fact, harm anyone or anything, and 2) any community talking about things that do not harm anyone or anything make that community seem trivia-obsessed and out of touch with reality, 3) that out-of-touch reputation will have real, negative impacts on attempts to do work to fight actual harm (boy who cried wolf), and 4) while feminists and feminism started this thing, it was occurring in the context of movement atheism, which runs the real risk of atheism/skepticism being identified as the community out of touch with reality.

    This is all right there in his words at the time. As for who was responsible, while he didn’t endorse rape threats against Watson, he validated their general perspective that Watson caused the problem through her error in discussing something that did not and does not cause harm to anyone or anything as if it did. This conception of the original sin of the conflict led Dawkins to clearly say that it was feminists that should take one for the team and shut up, to preserve the ability of movement atheism/skepticism to do work against “actual harm” – honor killings and other atrocities that currently are associated both closely and prominently with the Ummah.

    Dawkins can be as ignorant as he likes. If you actually read what was said at the time, many, many people described him using “clueless” or some synonym. We have know idea much he read of the reaction to Watson’s video, or the reaction to the reaction, etc. We do know that he knew such existed. He wasn’t responding *only* to Watson’s video, and your suggestion to that effect is both ridiculous and disingenuous. I am certain you will reply with, “I never said he didn’t know that responses existed!” That’s right. But you said:

    the storm wasn’t really about the video, it was about the reaction

    We’re questioning and criticizing Dawkins’ judgement (or we were, years ago, I have no idea how much, if at all, his judgement has improved). He’s clearly aware that the content of the discussion has gotten ugly or he wouldn’t have tried to cut it short.

    So, was his judgement bad by
    1) totally failing to understand the critique of EG’s behavior, which is still represented as hitting on someone in an elevator rather than represented correctly, as it was in the video, as hitting on someone after that person had spent the last 16 hours publicly announcing that she did not want to be hit on and that hitting on her has a negative effect on her ability to participate in conferences.
    and,
    2) calling what happened an incident of “no harm” when Watson had clearly identified the harm created when men ignore women’s many nos (subtle or overt) and adopt the assumption that someone should always be open to an advance. She said that this interfered with her ability to participate in, even to attend! conferences and that other women had verified to her that they were effected similarly. The loss of participation of some unknown number of women being described as “no harm” was a foul and odious statement **even if** Dawkins was aware only of the video, and in fact is **even worse** if one assumes that Dawkins thought the video itself was storm. If he indeed ascribed that much importance to it, one might expect him to know the contents of that which he was critiquing. If he didn’t, that’s Stubenville-media-coverage level behavior, asserting no harm to women without even looking at the evidence. If he did, that’s Stubenville-football-coach level behavior, dismissing the harm to women **despite** the evidence.

    I should think for anyone trying to minimize damage to Dawkins’ reputation would try very hard to convince people that Dawkins **didn’t** think that the video was in any way central, because then the sexist effects of his dismissive, woman-denying ignorance can be portrayed in a more flattering light as the result of an offhand comment entirely tangential to his point, a slight overreach when he should have stayed on topic.

    Leaving the video as the center of Dawkins’ conception of the storm gives him more responsibility to know what was actually in the video. You may assign him less responsibility for knowing the content of the rape threats issued by those who agreed with Dawkins that Watson was going on about nothing, but the source of the critique of his judgement wasn’t that he agreed with a rapist. I’m sure many actual rapists believe the sky appears blue to the human mind using the human eye when those are each working as expected. Mere agreement wasn’t what led to harsh critique of Dawkins.

    His actual behavior led to harsh critique of Dawkins.

  95. says

    monoman:

    Which is why I said I don’t understand it since PZ has said he won’t attend the same conference.

    What’s with the Duh? Is that supposed to be the noise a mentally disabled person makes?

    ‘Duh’ is snide shorthand for “it’s obvious” (not always used in a snide way, mind, but your inability to understand what PZ’s words mean is ridiculous).

    PZ was making the point that *IF* he and Abby attended a conference together-you do understand what the word IF means, right-they would be professional about it. It’s right there in his words.

  96. Bryan Long says

    Did anyone assume Dawkins was in favor of harassment? Not explicitly, but then again almost no one explicitly endorses rape, even though there actions may encourage, promote, or dismiss rape.

    It is not Dawkins initial ignorance that damns him, but that he often didn’t seem to listen when the effects of his words were pointed out.

    The collaboration with Benson is a welcome sight.

  97. says

    Bryan Long:

    Did anyone assume Dawkins was in favor of harassment? Not explicitly, but then again almost no one explicitly endorses rape, even though there actions may encourage, promote, or dismiss rape.

    It is not Dawkins initial ignorance that damns him, but that he often didn’t seem to listen when the effects of his words were pointed out.

    Ding ding ding!
    If he’d listened to the criticisms of his Dear Muslima, there might be more people who still liked him.

  98. neverjaunty says

    @Pan Paniscus: Before you continue making excuses for Dawkins, go back and actually read his “Dear Muslima” rant. Even buying your whole ‘the poor man was ignorant’ speculation, that rant is a Not-as-bad-as fallacy: Women shouldn’t complain about being creeped on at atheist conferences because women in Muslim theocracies are beaten and mutilated. (And, as has been pointed out to you again and again, he doubled down on this stupidity.)

    “What are you complaining about, it’s not as bad as what women in X country go through” is not only bad logic – something you would expect a rationalist skeptic to eschew – but it’s a bog-standard way to dismiss and shut down complaints of harassment. Has Dawkins ever penned a “Dear Urbanista” rant to swipe at a white privileged US student complaining that her science teacher talks about God, to scold her for forgetting that in other countries, atheist students would be executed? I rather doubt it, because he’s not trying to shut down and dismiss that issue.

  99. opposablethumbs says

    … ever penned a “Dear Urbanista” rant to swipe at a white privileged US student complaining that her science teacher talks about God, to scold her for forgetting that in other countries, atheist students would be executed? I rather doubt it, because he’s not trying to shut down and dismiss that issue.

    I don’t know for sure, but it certainly seems unlikely that any atheists have written a Dear USAnian or similar – and that’s a very good illustration of the fallacy, thank you!

  100. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Btian Long:

    Did anyone assume Dawkins was in favor of harassment?

    You do realize that people who are part of The Slymepit were selling “Team Dawkins” items?

    And that the narrative there is that FtB was out to destroy Dawkins. While it is true that many people part of FtB and many readers ended up not liking him, that is in reaction to “Dear Muslima” and other gaffes. And all of this was in defiance to the “Grand Cult Leader Of FtB” remaining friendly with Dawkins.

    And this assumption that Dawkins was in favor of harassment came to a head when Dawkins spoke with a member of The Slymepit (Who uses a parody of Rebecca Watson as an avatar.) about what a useful term Social Justice Warrior is. So, yeah, there were people who thought that Dawkins was silently supporting their efforts.

  101. says

    Here’s Dear Muslima:

    Dear Muslima

    Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

    Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself ‘Skepchick’, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

    And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin

  102. mamba24 says

    “I’m sure Richard Dawkins appreciates the approval of the moral arbiter PZ Myers…

    Translation: Only authorities are allowed to express an opinion about important things.”

    -Nice someone responded to my comment! And no that’s not the translation. I’m just making fun of PZ is all. Chill out David…..peace be with you. Opine away.

  103. says

    Scr… Archivist @62:
    I think that’s the first argument I’ve seen against using vulgar terms that is effective, and doesn’t stem from the more popular “I don’t like profanity bc it’s sign of a bad argument” type stuff usually offered.
    Makes me think about vulgar words, are we contributing to sex-negativity by using them as insults?

  104. says

    Nevertheless, it does seem to me that using vulgar epithets is still a sure sign that one is losing the thread of the argument.

    I’d say pearl clutching over the use of vulgarity is a surer sign that one is losing an argument.

  105. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I’d say pearl clutching over the use of vulgarity is a surer sign that one is losing an argument.

    So after a few moments in my Magic Treehouse the other day, I got a chance to stop by a quaint house with beautiful Dorian columns, not more than 20 rooms large. The whole facade was white as the purest limestone, but clearly made of worked wood and paint.

    It seems that there was some sort of labor dispute going on, with the “slave” class feeling quite hard done by because they slept in a rather less attractive dwelling, unpainted, with the carpentry clearly of inferior quality. Also, something about 60% value. In any case, one of the slaves was invited in to the big house to discuss the issue. He spoke with the patriarch of the big house throughout the dinner, citing writers both familiar (Thoreau and Franklin) and unfamiliar (Harriet Jacobs and Nat Turner? The only one he actually identified as having graduated college was some obscure Lucy Stanton).

    I thought he had raised some reasonable points, but after he left I had a chance to discuss this with the home owner. He pointed out the disrespect of the man in using the same fork for fish and salad. I firmly agree that the communications of someone willing to insult you should not be taken at face value. Clearly the home owner cannot trust, and therefore cannot negotiate, with someone who does not even take the time to perform the courtesies that require no cost whatsoever. It wasn’t like the slave had even been required to bring his own separate forks.

    If a man can’t be counted upon to lift a fork in order to avoid insult to a negotiating partner, he simply cannot be trusted in these negotiations.

    When I got back to my treehouse there was a message from Morgan le Fey that only cemented my positive impression of the homeowner’s reasoning. It turns out, I learned in that note, that during reconstruction the men drafting the 14th amendment were perfectly happy to spell out that its guarantees must be applied against instances of gender discrimination, but some inattentive wench burnt the pot roast.

  106. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Did you want help, donnagratehouse?

    You clearly have <blockquote> down.

    All you need do is, **after the quote** make sure you add a slash in the right place.

    The close-tag is written like so: </blockquote>.

  107. says

    Hi

    Re my Dawkins/Watson PZ/Abbie comment

    I had no idea she was behind the slymepit forum, I’ve only read her posts on scienceblogs re hiv/aids and so on, just read her as she posts on similar subjects to Orac who I also read.

    My apologies to everyone (and indeed to PZ for my (much) earlier comments on the subject)

    I’m in no sense for harassment of women (or anyone else) or for/anything to do with the slymepit.


    Adam

  108. Marcelo Huerta says

    I’ll start respecting anything Dawkins says when he stops mocking the notion of privilege in his Twitter feed, as he’s prone to do once or twice a week.

  109. opposablethumbs says

    Mog Kuposon, thank you.

    re the Benson-Dawkins joint statement – I’m very glad to see it. Crossing my fingers it bears fruit.